NASA deals blow to rival Northrop in awarding historic Shuttle replacement deal

Lockheed Martin has won the NASA development and production contract potentially worth over $8 billion for the new four- to six-crew Orion spacecraft that will transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2014 and return them to the Moon by 2020.

NASA is dividing the work into three phases. From September this year to September 2013 Lockheed will undertake the design, development, test and evaluation (DDT&E) of the Orion, worth $3.9 billion. The post-development production orders could begin as early as September 2009. This $3.5 billion phase would continue until 7 September 2019. The third phase is worth $750 million and is for the provision of additional spacecraft and related engineering services from 2009 to 2019.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems executive vice-president Joanne Maguire says: "Work already is under way and we are fully focused on the vital tasks that lie ahead to meet NASA's requirements for the programme."

NASA expects the majority of Orion engineering work to be at its Houston Johnson Space Center. Lockheed said in March it could bring 1,200 engineering, software development and testing jobs to its Houston Orion project office if it won. The Houston area local government had also offered job training aid and other incentives for the Orion winner to locate the programme there. Louisiana is another state to benefit from NASA's Orion decision. Lockheed will manufacture large Orion structures at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, which it manages. Final Orion assembly and checkout is to be at Kennedy Space Center's operations and checkout facility.

Lockheed Orion W445
© Lockheed Martin

 The Orion spacecraft will carry up to six crew
The Florida state government had offered $45.5 million to cover training, transport infrastructure, facility improvements and equipment for the location of Orion facilities in its state.

Lockheed has won a selection process that had two phases. Both Lockheed and its competitor, a Northrop Grumman/Boeing team, won $28 million contracts for phase one. This was for concept refinement, trade studies, requirements analysis and preliminary vehicle design options. The phase two DDT&E contract had two submission deadlines due to last-minute NASA changes including an Orion outer-mould diameter reduction. The deadlines were in March and April this year.

Following NASA's announcement, Northrop said its team would now focus on winning the production contract for the Orion launcher Ares I's upper stage. That contract is expected to be placed in 2007.

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Read Rob Coppinger's blog about the NASA decision to give Lockheed Martin the $8 billion contract for the space agency's manned Orion spacecraft

Source: Flight International